We had the pleasure and the honor to interview James Curd, an electronic musician, responsible for the creation of numerous tracks in the GTA series!
In GTA Online, he created the original soundtrack for the Deadline Adversary Mode, Further Adventures in Finance and Felony & Bikers updates. Also known for his part in the band Greenskeepers, band's song "Vagabond" was featured on GTA IV's radio station Radio Broker. While in GTA V he remixed Favored Nation's "The Set Up" for the end credits of the game.
1) The first question that comes to mind is: how does it feel to have contributed to such an iconic "brand" as Rockstar and especially the Grand Theft Auto series? One of the unquestionably most loved and popular video games on the planet?
It feels great! I’ve worked on a lot of cool things over the years. I’ve had music on great labels, songs in film and T.V. The one thing that people universally recognize is GTA hands down. Feels like I have a real job!
2) As long as you can talk to us about it or at least mention something it... How did your first collaboration with Rockstar begin? We know that the first major event was the fact that one of your songs "Vagabond", together with your band Greenskeepers, was featured on GTA IV's radio station Radio Broker. Any details on how it was decided to use that song for the video game?
I’ve had a great relationship with the music supervisor for more than 20 years. I would send him songs here and there and “Vagabond” was not written for GTA at all. It was just made as a Greenskeepers song. When he heard it he asked me to make one small change to say “Liberty City” instead of “New York City” and I was happy to switch it out. Once that change was made it really felt like the theme song for the game. They ended up using it for the worldwide T.V. Ad as well. It was so surreal watching the NBA playoffs and then my song would come on for the AD.
3) How much and in what way has the beginning of working with Rockstar been determinant and important in your life and career?
It’s such a globally know successful game. Having created 25 songs for them gives me a serious stamp of approval as an artist and composer. I think it’s a nice thing to have on my resume when directors are deciding between a few different composers. Maybe it gives me a small edge.
4) Are you a gamer/videogame lover too? Do you happen to play Rockstar games or are you also a fan of their games as well? Is there a Rockstar game you absolutely prefer out of all the others?
I was way into video games when I was a kid. Started with Atari, obsessed with Nintendo and worked my way up to the first Halo on Xbox. After that I had less and less time to play games. So, there is about a 20 year gap until now. Lately I’ve been having fun playing Fortnite with some friends online. I’ve just started GTA 5 to see if I can get to the end and hear my finale song play!
5) Of all those produced over time, what is the song you composed for Rockstar that you are most proud of and why?
I made “The Setup” under my Favored Nations project name. I’m most proud of that one because it started out as an a cappella that my friend Morgan Phalen sent me. I then created a whole song around it. I feel like the universe gave me that song because once again that song was not written for GTA. The lyrics just happen to be crime inspired. Once I finished the song and sent it to them they brought in Tangerine Dream to do a mix as well. Tangerine Dream are straight up legends who scored Risky Business. They ended up using it for one of the 3 finale songs.
6) We clearly know that in addition to the music you work on for Rockstar, you compose a lot of other music for other projects, can you tell us about some of your current projects?
I’ve created a new project that I’m excited about with my old Greenskeepers buddy Mark. It’s called Modern Living and each song has a featured artist. We have Josh Pyke, Nick Littlemore, DRAMA, Ivoris, Nathan Ball, Dusty Lee, Sean K and more. We are starting a record label to release everything. I also have a film that is in the early stages that I’ll score and music supervise in 2024. Besides those couple of things I’m still making Chicago house tracks for the clubs. I have my own label PRONTO and I also have a few things coming up on Exploited Records.
7) How much has your way of making music changed over the years and how? Do you think that working for Rockstar has also given a real turning point in your approach toward your work and in the way of making music?
I’m always trying to push myself and learn. I’m not classically trained in any aspect of music. I started off djing. That lead to me buying an MPC2000. I used to use that to create full songs from beginning to end. A great record label out of Paris put out my first song when I was 19 years old. From then I moved into logic and collecting vintage synths. I learned a lot working in a band environment. I basically work as hard as I can to get the things I’m hearing in my head out and into a recording. I’m never sure how I will get there but I just keep grinding until it comes out right in the end.
8) Is there any particular advice that you feel you can give to young artists, from your own artistic branch (music), who want to do it as a profession and maybe even make a career in the world of videogames with their music and how to approach?
For me I’ve always tried to see everything as an opportunity. I’m not sure that is the best advice in a time where everyone is trying so hard to create and protect a brand. I’ve worked on films that didn’t pay much money but I thought I could do a good job on the music. That film lead to a much bigger film. I’ve remixed artists very first songs that had zero profiles that went on to become huge artist. Nothing is too big or small when all it is costing me is time and energy. I will pour everything I have into music. I love working and I appreciate the fact that I get to wake up everyday and make music for my job. You never know what things you work on will lead to. I do know however the things that you don’t work on will lead nowhere.
Thank you again for your time James, it was incredibly interesting! Make sure to follow James on Instagram.